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- LLSC and TiL C&R statement
Luton Town’s key supporter groups have accused Capital & Regional, owners of The Mall shopping centre, of being “arrogant, out-of touch with the local community, and misleading.”
The joint statement was issued in response to what the fans said was “a disgraceful” interview” on BBC 3CR in which Capital & Regional explained why it was objecting to the proposed new stadium development.
The interview with Ken Ford, a senior executive at Capital & Regional, made it clear that the company was ignoring overwhelming community support for a new stadium to be built for Luton Town Football Club, at the derelict Power Court site in Luton.
Mr. Ford dismissed the facts that 11,000 members of the community wrote personal emails and letters of support to Luton Borough Council and that the town’s two MPs support the plans too. The opinions of the council leaders are also on public record. There is a vast groundswell of public support, all wanting the new stadium to be built by the 2020 group, which owns LTFC.
Mr. Ford made a series of claims, including a warning that there were “social issues” associated with football fans that would hit sales at The Mall if a football stadium was built nearby.
He suggested that the proposed Newlands Park development at Junction 10 of the M1 to fund the stadium would damage Luton town centre. He also said that football stadiums should be built at the edge of towns, rather than town centres.
Mark Bradbury, Chairman of the Loyal Luton Supporters’ Club, and Tony Murray, Chairman of Luton Town Supporters’ Trust, said the interview was “appalling and disgraceful’. In a joint statement they continued:
“Capital & Regional is only interested in its own profits; not our town. The company is arrogant and completely out-of-touch with the local community it claims to support. Worse than this, the company’s comments are either carelessly -or deliberately- misleading. Mr. Ford obviously has no idea what the people of Luton want. Capital & Regional clearly has no interest in Luton’s wider interests and has sat back for nearly a decade and watched
the area around The Mall turn into a wasteland with no interest in developing it – until now. Their objection is a pure blocking manoeuvre to protect the status quo of eye sores and pound stores at the expense of a major and transformative regeneration project for our town.”
Mark Bradbury/ Loyal Luton Supporters’ Club
Tony Murray/ Luton Town Supporters’ Trust
The two groups gave this further reaction……
Joint statement by Loyal Luton Supporters’ Club and Luton Town Supporters’ Trust, in response to Capital & Regional’s objection to the new stadium development at Power Court.
Loyal Luton Supporters’ Club and Luton Town Supporters’ Trust have been working together for several months with the joint objective of helping to secure the proposed new stadium development for Luton Town FC at Power Court.
We met with 2020 (owners of the club), local MPs, the council leaders and other stakeholders, while gaining constant feedback from our members, the wider supporter base and the local community about the plans.
There is overwhelming support for the stadium to be built at Power Court, with a sister project at Newlands Park to fund the development. Nearly 11,000 people wrote individual letters or emails of support to Luton Borough Council and our local MPs are in favour of the plans too. The opinions of the council leaders on the subject are on public record as well.
The single key objector to the plans has been Capital & Regional, owners of The Mall, which is a large property business with shares listed on the London and Johannesburg stock exchanges.
Recently we bought shares in C&R and attended the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting (their AGM) in London to ask them why a company which claims to operate “at the heart of the community” was objecting to a scheme which had the overwhelming support of the community.
C&R’s response was that the company has a scheme of its own to develop the area around The Mall which will create “a more vibrant town centre” and talks about the potential offered by a new masterplan for the town.
The company suggested that the proposed Newlands Park development would “destroy the town centre.”
The directors also questioned the viability of the stadium scheme and the clean-up costs of land at Power Court.
C&R had no clear answer to a question about why it was objecting to the plans at Newlands Park, but not the proposed retail developments at Houghton Regis.
However, the C&R directors perhaps took some notice of our comments at their AGM and subsequently former director, Ken Ford, who still works for the company leading a number of key development initiatives, was interviewed on BBC 3CR.
Mr. Ford’s interview was greeted with incredulity by the local community and 3CR was inundated with texts and calls from angry listeners who could not believe what Mr. Ford was saying.
C&R‘s misleading claims
We have summarised (below) some of the key points and claims made by C&R and Mr. Ford and posed questions which we would like to see answered by C&R and Mr. Ford.
1. C&R claims that it operates “at the heart of the community”.
If so, why is it formally objecting to a scheme backed by 11,000 members of the community who wrote emails and letters of support to Luton Borough Council – and also supported by our local MPs, with council leaders’ opinions also on record?
2. C&R says that its own plan will create “a more vibrant” town centre than the 2020 plan.
So why is C&R only talking about this now, despite being in Luton since 2008? Why has no planning application been lodged? Why should the people of Luton trust a company that has allowed the town centre to effectively shut down in the early evening and to create an environment of pound stores and surrounding eyesores?
3. C&R is dismissive of the football club’s supporter base, the popularity of the Power Court and Newlands Park plans, and the 11,000 people who wrote emails and letters to Luton Borough Council supporting them. Mr. Ford suggests that this is only 11,000 people out of a town of 200,000, an insignificant proportion.
Does he realise that 11,000 individual emails and letters is an almost certainly an unprecedented level of support for any planning application, any time, anywhere in the UK? Does he understand the vast groundswell of support in the town for Power Court and Newlands Park. Does he actually care what the people of Luton think about the 2020 plans?
4. C&R claim that the Newlands Park development will “destroy” the town centre by taking away sales.
Why? The proposed retail at Newlands Park is different to and complementary to the Mall. It would attract more shoppers to Luton who currently head for other shopping centres. There is no plan to build any more pound stores there!
5. C&R say that Power Court will be a big building only used four to six hours a week, lie fallow the rest of the time and won’t add to the life of the town centre.
2020’s plans include a live music venue, restaurants, education facilities, open spaces, a hotel, homes and lots more to bring life to the town every day and evening. The Mall is a big building with none of these things, and effectively kills the town centre dead outside of opening hours.
6. C&R says that the football stadium should be built on a different site, possibly The Brache.
LTFC has been seeking a suitable site for a new stadium since the 1950’s. 2020 carried out an exhaustive study of possible sites and Power Court was the clear favourite. Has C&R checked whether a stadium could be built at the Brache? What is its plan? Is it costed? It’s on the airport flight path – is it even vaguely viable?
7. C&R is objecting to the Newlands Park development, but not to a proposed retail development at Houghton Regis.
Why? Does C&R have an interest in the Houghton Regis Development?
8. C&R says that it wants to create an “urban park” on the Power Court site. This conflicts with its view last year that the site could be used for housing/retail and commercial development.
Does C&R really have a credible plan? How does C&R intend to build an urban park when it does not own the Power Court site? What would C&R’s shareholders view be of buying land to build a park? Does it make any commercial sense or is it just a tactic to delay the stadium?
9. C&R says that football stadiums should be built on the edge of town.
Why? Newcastle, Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea – some of the best supported clubs in the country- take a different view. Out of town stadia do not work in the majority of cases.
10. C&R believes that football fans come with the baggage of “social issues.” We take it from this that he believes that they are hooligans.
Not so Mr. Ford. Where is the evidence that building a stadium on a derelict wasteland site will create “social issues” and not in fact enhance the lives of the whole community? Why does he consider football fans to be social pariahs, rather than a cross section of the community?
11. C&R says that retail sales in The Mall will fall on match days.
Why? We dispute this and believe that a major regeneration project will mean that people are more likely to come to Luton and shop at The Mall than now.
12. C&R says that the clean-up costs at Power Court make the site unviable.
How does C&R know this when 2020 has dug boreholes and tested the site and they have not. And – if was the case – how would C&R fund its plans for an urban park?
That’s a dozen questions we’d like answered – we have dozens more we want to ask, and we believe that the people of Luton deserve answers. Why ARE the Mall and C&R trying to prevent regeneration of the town? What are their REAL motives?
Mark Bradbury and the Loyal Luton Supporters’ Club Committee
Tony Murray and Luton Town Supporters’ Trust Board
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